Instead of spring flowers, the grass outside the School of Social Work is sporting different kinds of lawn ornaments.

Early Tuesday morning, several students and professors gathered to place 75 pinwheels into the frozen earth to commemorate children who died because of or abuse or neglect.

The event was the first of several that the Social Work School has planned in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. This is the first year the school has organized events for the nationally recognized month. Robert Ortega, associate professor in the School of Social Work, hopes that it will become a tradition.

“This (child abuse and neglect) is something that goes on around the country, so we have this public display and, hopefully, people will come by,” Ortega added. “We start at the ground level — working with children and families — and also in communities.”

Social Work student Joyce Reese-Bey said she helped initiate and plan this event and other events throughout the month to achieve better student awareness.

“I feel like every child deserves to have a childhood that’s free from harm,” Reese-Bey said. “Children don’t have anyone to speak up for them because they rely on the adults in their lives. We have to be that voice for those kids who don’t have parents to stick up for them.”

Social Work student Lidi Armenta saw the event as a way to reach all students by extenuating the concern for these children in a visual and easily accessible way.

“I’m a Child Welfare Scholar, and there’s a cohort of about ten of us every year,” Armenta said. “We really felt like we wanted to commit to taking it beyond our academic endeavors by raising awareness of child abuse and neglect.”

Ortega said many students in the Social Work School decide to come to the University because it affords them more opportunities to help children.

“Students who come here have experienced working with children and come back to school to work on their master’s degree so they can go out and do a lot more in terms of advocacy and social change,” Ortega said.

Social Work student Dominic Ortega said there will be other events later this month that aim to highlight Child Abuse Prevention.

“We’re doing the pinwheels today, and then we have some signs that kids came up with about why kids matter,” he said. “There’s been a lot of involvement in this program.”

Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the pinwheels were to commemorate children who specifically died in state-mandated foster care.

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